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Cruise Control

Big Tom stinks up the screen again in the ridiculous Knight and Day

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Previews

As noted here last week, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, next in the teen vampire/werewolf franchise, hits multiple screens early for Fourth of July weekend and will likely dominate multiplex box offices nationwide. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

Eclipse's primary competition is The Last Airbender, a fantasy adventure based on Nickelodeon's anime-style marital arts epic Avatar: The Last Airbender. Like the original, the setting is a world where the elemental balance is thrown off by the Lord of the Fire Nation, who is waging war on the Earth Kingdom, the Water Tribes and the Air Nomads. Who can make things right? Perhaps Aang (Noah Ringer), an ass-kicking 112-year-old martial arts master with glowing eyes who looks like he's 12. As the only one around who can control all four elements, he's the savior everyone hopes can bring peace. Master of mysteriousness M. Night Shyamalan is writer/director/producer for three CGI-heavy live action films (upgraded to 3-D for some theatres). Rated PG for fantasy action violence. Opening in 3-D at the Fortuna; in 2-D at the Broadway, the Minor and Mill Creek (as Toy Story 3-D lingers).

Since July 1 is the first Thursday in the month, it's First Thursday Film Night at the Graves Museum with Revolución: Five Visions, a doc about five Cuban photographers -- some young, some old -- and how they've captured the Cuban Revolution through their lenses.

It's also Ocean Night at the Arcata Theatre Lounge Thursday, this week with the surf flick Dude Cruise (think Endless Summer meets Jackass) and, on the edutainment side, A Sea Change, in which a retired history teacher looks into the change in acidity in our oceans brought about by excess carbon dioxide dissolving in the water. And you thought rising tides and oil were all you had to worry about.

It's a double film bennie night Thursday at the ATL: After the surfers leave, Butter Music Brazil presents the All Tribes Dance Films and Beats Gathering with electro-dance trance music and Footsteps in Africa, A Nomadic Journey, an arty ethnographic documentary about the nomadic Tuareg/Kel Tamashek tribes in the deserts of Mali.

The HumCo Library's next "Based on the Book" series begins Tuesday, July 6, at the Eureka branch. The summer theme: heist, caper and getaway films. First up is Criss Cross, a 1949 film noir directed by Robert Siodmak, based on a novel by Don Tracy. Burt Lancaster stars as Steve Thompson, an armored-car driver entangled with his ex-wife (Yvonne De Carlo) and her mobster pal (Dan Duryea). The Journal's own Charlie Myers serves as host for the free screening.

-- Bob Doran

Reviews:

KNIGHT AND DAY. There have been a lot of good films in the caper genre. Unhappily, Knight and Day is not one of them. There are several reasons for the film's failure to entertain. First, the script is awful. It tries to insert some James Bond action into a form that doesn't need it. Secondly, the dialog is unusually weak, a serious fault in a genre where snappy repartee is one of the chief attractions. Here, the dialog too often invokes silly, nudge-nudge sexual innuendo. Thirdly, while Tom Cruise has been effective in some films, he doesn't really seem to be trying here. His portrayal of possibly rogue CIA agent Roy Miller, who kills both airline pilots and all the passengers (save Diaz's June Havens) during a flight, then calmly lands the plane in a field (to name just the opening exploit), seems strangely bland.

Then there is Diaz, who has been a competent to very good actor in serious films (My Sister's Keeper) as well as comedy. Little of her talent is exhibited in this film, where director James Mangold (who did well with 3:10 to Yuma) seems to think her best attribute is looking good in a bikini. Well, she does, but so do all the women in the annual Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated.

The basic premise of Knight and Day is promising: Civilian June Havens is accidentally drawn into the orbit of assassin Roy Miller, where she becomes targeted for elimination by the CIA. But that premise is totally vitiated by the screenwriter, the director and the cast. Skip this film and rent the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair instead. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action violence throughout, and brief strong language. 110m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

CITY ISLAND. This offbeat dysfunctional family comedy/drama set in a fishing village in north Bronx is a welcome relief from the relentless onslaught of summer releases. But the film, which I saw during my recent sojourn in Portland, is more than that. In particular, it has an excellent cast, featuring Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer, Alan Arkin as well as an excellent director, Raymond De Ferlitta (he also wrote the screenplay), who knows when to let the actors take the reins.

The setup piles on the dysfunction. Middle-aged blue-collar correctional officer Vince Rizzo (Garcia) is secretly taking acting classes. His long-suffering wife Joyce (Margulies) suspects he is having an affair because she senses no passion from Vince anymore. Their daughter Vivian (Garcia's actual daughter, Dominik Garcia-Lorido) is pretending to be taking college classes but is working as a stripper, and their teen son Vinnie (Ezra Miller) spies on a plus-size female neighbor while dreaming of feeding her donuts.

On top of that, Vince discovers that his older son Tony, with whom he has long had no contact, is about to be released from prison. He springs Tony by having him do chores around his house. The topless Tony arouses buried lust in Joyce, while Vince discovers a mutual attraction with fellow acting student Molly (the always excellent and fascinating Mortimer).

This all may seem a little over the top, but the acting makes the whole thing work, and the scenes between Mortimer and Garcia are particularly effective. Sure, the viewer can mostly guess how everything is going to work out, but the film at least provides some genuine smiles of appreciation in the midst of the supposedly comic films of summer. Recommended. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and language. 104m. At the Broadway.

GROWN UPS. The full-page ad for Grown Ups in the New York Times includes a quote from Bill Zwecker of Fox-TV: "The perfect summer movie." Finally, I have found a point of agreement with Fox, assuming that Zwecker meant by "perfect" a completely mindless, witless entry in the man-child comedy sweepstakes.

Grown Ups takes the premise of The Big Chill (old friends getting together after losing touch because of a funeral), leaving out the intelligent script and the acting, and combines it with Hot Tub Time Machine without the hot tub.

Co-written and produced by Adam Sandler, the script uses the death of a junior high school basketball coach to reunite the five players on his 1978 championship team 30 years later. Perhaps not surprisingly, Sandler, as Hollywood agent Lenny Feder, has the least silly role and, at least, he keeps his acting low-key. Somehow, Salma Hayek wanders into the film as Lenny's attractive Italian fashion designer spouse, heading up a bevy of beauties, often in bikinis, providing the film's eye candy. Maria Bello, apparently longing for her Coyote Ugly days, appears as Sally, who is married to the overweight Eric (Kevin James) and is still nursing her 4-year-old. And I shouldn't overlook Chris Rock as a househusband who can't follow a recipe.

Toward the end of this lamentable film, someone says, "In life, the first act: exciting. But the second act is where the depth comes in." But of course, the whole point of this genre is that there is never a second act save some pathetic last-minute attempt at a mature act.

Alas, two hours of my life is unrecoverably down the toilet. Don't waste my sacrifice -- skip this limp exercise in arrested development. Rated PG-13 for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity. 102m. At the Broadway, Fortuna, the Minor and Mill Creek.

Continuing

A-TEAM. I pity the foo' that doesn't see this updated version of the ’80s action TV show. Rated PG-13. 117m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

BABIES. A look at the lives of four babies from different corners of the world. This film is cute as hell. Rated PG. 79m. At the Broadway.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK. Sex + drugs + rock ’n' roll = hilarity! Rated R. 109m. At Garberville and Mill Creek.

KARATE KID. Witness the benefits of being Will Smith's son in this martial arts remake. Rated PG. 140m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the heroic, royal video game icon. Rated PG-13. 116m. At the Broadway.

TOY STORY 3. Woody and Buzz toy around for the first time in over a decade. But what happens when their kid prepares for college? Rated G. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

SPLICE. Silly humans attempt to play God by fusing various DNA to create new species. God and/or the new species smite them. Rated R. 104m. At Garberville.

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